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For ten years, millions of American's looked forward to Thursday nights and their standing date with their six favorite Friends. And even though the show ended five years ago, many still enjoy the reruns. In fact, at my house we DVR them all, and I always have at least two "new" episodes waiting for me.
Friends has always been a hilarious mood-lifter. Even though I've now seen every single episode at least once, it's still one of the only shows that makes me actually LOL. I can turn it on when I've had a rough day, and it's never made me feel anything but good.
Or has it?
After reading about a new study on how the show negatively affects women's body images , I thought a little deeper. Okay, yes, the three main female characters were very attractive, although they were mostly pretty in that natural sort of way – I'd assume watching a Victoria's Secret commercial would be much more damaging. Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston are very thin, and Jennifer lost a significant amount of weight in the early seasons. But, for me, the overall focus wasn't on their bodies. Courteney, Jen and Lisa Kudrow are all talented actresses who played smart, funny, strong women. They didn't play dumb beauties setting up punch lines for witty chauvinistic men, a la Two and a Half Men. They played independent, career-minded women who never took a backseat to their male counterparts – comedic or otherwise. And while some plots did sexualize the women, just as many featured them ogling men – like when the trio spies George Stephanopoulos through a hotel window and mentally wills him to drop his towel.
Of course the one plotline that contradicts this is the running joke about how Monica used to be fat. She was constantly teased by her friends and family for being overweight as a child, and the show even went so far as to dress Courteney in a fat suit for a few episodes. But it was just for a laugh, right?
Who knows – maybe on some level watching so much Friends did damage my body image. In general I feel pretty good about myself, and I'd say my body falls somewhere between Fat Monica and Skinny Monica. I'll admit I've sometimes wished I looked a little more like the latter, but I think it's only natural for women to compare themselves to others. So why would comparing myself to the thin women on Friends be any more harmful than comparing myself to other celebrities, actresses on other TV shows, or even my own coworkers and real-life friends?
What do you think? Did watching Friends ever make you feel bad about yourself or affect your self-esteem?